Charles Leclerc. (AFP Photo)
SPIELBERG: Twelve months after claiming a dramatic pole position at the Red Bull Ring, Charles Leclerc on Saturday struggled to secure seventh on the grid for Ferrari – and admitted it was “crazy”.
The Monegasque driver, whose brilliant first season with the team in 2019 led them to decide not to offer four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel a new contract for 2021, said Ferrari’s problems at the delayed season-opening Austrian Grand Prix were worse than expected.
Team boss Mattia Binotto had warned before flying to Austria that Ferrari had decided to re-design the SF1000 car with a package of aerodynamic upgrades to be introduced at the third race in Hungary later this month.
But both drivers were surprised how relatively uncompetitive they were – Leclerc squeezing through to take seventh on the grid while Vettel was 11th after missing the top-ten shootout.
“It’s not been an easy qualifying session, unfortunately, and that’s where we are at the moment,” said Leclerc.
“We have to stay positive, try and get out of these hard times and work as a team — and try and to cheer everyone up.”
Leclerc scraped through to Q3 in 10th before finishing seventh in Q3, trailing cars from Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Racing Point
When his engineer told him he was 10th, he responded immediately: “Crazy.”
Vettel admitted he was shocked.
“Of course, yes, it’s a surprise,” Vettel said of his qualifying performance.
“We thought we had a little bit more in hand, but it looks like the others were probably running a bit more fuel and were a bit more conservative in practice.
“I was not so happy with the car – more over-steer on entry than I would have liked.
“But we’ll see. Tomorrow is a different picture. I think with the track getting a bit hotter, it was a bit more costly for us today.
“It’s a long race. I think in race trim we are always better. I think we will be there to make up some good ground and score some good points.”